CD Players

Emotiva ERC-1 CD player


Technical Observations

Why should the ERC-1 sound better than other players? Well they went all out on some audiophile approved features such as separate power supplies for each of the major sections: Transport, Display, Digital, Analog. Also too, each of those sections is shielded. Balanced outputs as I mentioned. The DAC is the AD1955 from Analog Devices. The Analog Devices website says that this chip supports 24 bit, 192 kHz samples. The Emotiva takes advantage of this support and I support them in doing so. That chip also supports HDCD decoding and that is also implemented by the ERC-1. Finally the signal is created in its final analog state by Burr Brown OPA2134 Op Amps. If Martha Stuart were an audiophile she'd say 'These are good things'.

Emotiva ERC-1 CD player

Inserting the disc is a leap of faith.

The slot loader took a little getting used to, with a drawer loading mechanism you feel like you're putting the disc in a drawer. Of course you'll be able to get it out, just open the drawer. Fine until the drawer won't open of course. With a slot loader you are pushing a disc into a black box and it seems a little less certain that you will get it back again. Actually, your chances are about the same with either mechanism. With the Emotiva there is a pretty firm resistance when the disc is about half way in, if almost feels like there's already something in there and you shouldn't be pushing much harder. About then the mechanism comes to life and the disc slowly disappears inside the black box.

The manual describes the mechanism as 'magnetic'. I had to ask Lonnie Vaughn (General Manager of Emotiva) what that meant, here's what he said: "Inside of the loader mechanism there is an internal tray with 2) arms on top of the tray. When a CD is detected the arms are lowered on top of the CD magnetically to hold the CD in place as the tray is moved back and lowered into position for playing. Once in position the arms are released and the unit comes to life. This is a brand new design for a loader mechanism that is night and day from the previous slot load systems that you might be familiar with. If you remember all of the slot loaders up until now used rubber coated rollers to pull in and eject the CDs. If the rollers got dirty it would scratch the CDs, well this won't happen on this system. Once a CD is inserted the optical sensors pick up the presence of the CD, the magnetic arms are lowered and the internal tray moves into or ejects the CDs and they never pass by any rollers."

But why go with a slot loading mechanism at all? "Originally we looked into a tray load system because that is what everyone is used too, but I hate plastic trays (with a passion). I checked with every company who made loaders and no one makes a metal tray anymore. So rather than build a beautiful player with a flimsy plastic tray, I choose to go with a slot load system."

The Emotiva never failed to return my disc to me unscathed except for one troubling incident for which I am probably the guilty party. While trying to load the above mentioned Cocteau Twins CD, part of a four disc set that is not easily replaced, I pressed the 'Eject' button to wake up the player rather than the 'Standby' button. I then proceeded to try to insert the disc just as the loading mechanism started to move (to the 'ready' position I imagine). The mechanism grabbed the disc hard and pinched it so that it was only half way in and cocked at an angle.

Arrrrrg. I had visions of having to take off the top cover and god knows what else… well, before all that, I simply tried tugging on the disc. It took a firm tug but it came right out and I could see no scratches at first. I was imagining the worst because it really grabbed that puppy. Eventually I did see that the very outside of the disc did have a scratch, maybe 3/16" long, half of which was outside of the data area. Whew. I pushed it in flat and enjoyed. I was able to play the disc all the way through with no incident. This is something to think about though if children, clumsy neighbors or perhaps a knowledgeable, caring but otherwise inattentive audiophile is going to be operating the stereo. To be totally fair, there is a chance I had caused this scratch sometime in the past by dropping the disc or using it to slice vegetables on but I don't recall any such incidents.

Even before this I was a little fearful to try a DualDisc because it is slightly thicker than a standard CD. I haven't seen one of these in the store for years it seems but I still have a couple of prized DualDisc releases including Massive Attack's Collected. This is a disc that has gotten stuck in my DVD player which has a normal tray loading mechanism. The trick I learned there was to press 'stop' before 'eject' so that the disc could stop spinning. All of which goes to show how tight the margins are for even this old school loading mechanism. Dualdiscs discs have become so passe' that only I worry about them, they are not mentioned in the manual for the ERC-1. The folks at Emotiva assured me though that if it fit through the slot it would not be a problem. It did and they were right, no problem. It went in and came out. In between the sound was great.

The manual does mention that no disc cleaners of any kind should be used. As I have become partial to the occasional treatment with an anti-static CD cleaner (yes I am the crazy audiophile reviewer) I had to ask Lonnie – why no cleaners? Once the method was understood (all residual liquid is dried off before play) he agreed there should be no issue. I did clean only a couple of the discs I played, the difference, if any, was less than I'm used to but my theory on these things is that by removing the static from a rapidly spinning disc these cleaners eliminate a noise source and perhaps demagnetize or de-staticize the player - because it does seem like one doesn't have to clean every disc. It's more like a treatment for the player than the disc. Still, the real test for something subtle like this would be long term 'how long did you listen' logs, not A-B.

What is missing from this player? A Digital input. I think all CD players should have this. If you're paying for a good DAC in there, even if you're not paying all that much, you should be able to use it with your portable player (and your portable player should have a digital out), your squeezebox and your laptop. All this would keep the player from becoming land fill before it's time and save you from having to buy a separate DAC.

Some other things I wanted to mention but can't figure out where to put unless it's here: The display when fully lit up is pretty bright. Too much so if your room is dark. There is a 'Dim' button on the remote though which turns off everything except the numeric display. This is how I did most of my listening. I did not hear a difference with the display on or off if you're wondering. Also, I did try the Emotiva through the Primaluna, I found nothing that would alter my conclusions. Tune into the Primaluna review for more!